Thursday, March 01, 2012

Tari Saman

Here are two different videos of our Tari Saman performance yesterday. The first is from my own camera (again, I am fifth from the left (in pink)):



The second is from a friend's camera—they were sitting front and center instead of off to the side so it's certainly a better angle:



I've been scouring the internet for information on Tari Saman, or the dance of a thousand hands as it's popularly known in the English, all month long. Wikipedia was sadly lacking and most other sources say approximately the same thing, though there were tidbits of information all over the place.

Tari Saman is a traditional Gayonese dance and was created by Sheik Saman in the 14th century (though I have seen sources listing dates from the 13th to the 16th century). Tari means dance in the Gayo language. Saman is obviously taken from Sheik Saman's name. The Gayonese live on the island of Aceh in Indonesia but have their own very distinct culture (and dialect). They practice Islam, though are a little wayward, "lacking orthodox understanding of the religion." However, they were among the earliest converts to Islam in Indonesia.

The clapping movements come from a game known as Pok Poke Ane—according to my mother's research it was typically played by females, which I'm sure is accurate since I can think of a lot of cultures where the girls play hand clapping games (like our own, for example, and in Ghana)—but the clapping movements were borrowed and set to religious texts to be used for religious holidays, specifically that of the Prophet Mohammed, though Tanielle told us that the lyrics were also traditionally used to "preach religious advice, patriotism, togetherness and team work to the people." Tari Saman is now a popular entertainment piece, though religious songs are still used, much like the Tannoura Sufi dancers (or Whirling Dervishes).

The dance is "performed by a group of dancers wearing mostly colorful and bright traditional costumes" and "relies heavily on precision and synchronization of movement of each member in the team....Standing or kneeling tightly close to each other, the dancers sing and move in perfect sync, in an increasingly accelerating tempo. A single mistake will definitely mess up the entire routine....the clapping of hands, and slaps on the chest and thighs...create its rhythm."

It's necessary to sit so close together because we clap each other's hands in addition to our own and also because once we start doing "the wave" part we really need to quite close or we can't reach each other.

Last year UNESCO listed Tari Saman as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding not because the dance is becoming less popular necessarily but because aspects of the dance are changing. It used to be performed solely by men; however, it is now common to see women performing it. In fact, in our group of nine performers there is only one male. Of course, there are also only two Indonesians in our group so I am not sure we count as being culturally accurate, anyway.

At one of our practices someone asked a question that I'd been wondering myself: what do the words mean?

Tanielle, who is from Indonesia, said she had no idea because the words are in a dialect of the Gayo language and she doesn't speak Gayo. Angita, the other Indonesian in our group (and who is actually in Andrew's MPA program) doesn't know either. There is a bit of Arabic thrown in, of course, since it's a religious text singing praise to Allah. The only part I understand is "bismillah" and "salah." So that's something.

I've very glad we don't have to sing them the lyrics (we only sing what's in italics)—not only because many of the words are tricky to say but because it gets increasingly difficult to sing the longer you dance. Gayo is an unwritten language and though I've looked and looked online I haven't been able to find a translation. In fact, this is the best dictionary I could find online. It was less than useful...unless you're interested in book a hotel or catching a cab. I did, however, find many different variations of the text.

My mom sent the text to her friend Ed who said he didn't speak any Aceh dialects and he advised her to contact a man in Australia—a pastor who researches comparative religion now and who speaks Aceh. Gayonese is related to Acehnese but differs greatly from it. Chances are this song is in a Gayonese dialect—but the man in Australia was able to tell us that the version of the lyrics we had in hand had "travelled," meaning that the transliteration is not very accurate anymore and the text is kind of garbled (like Mad Gab). I can't find a translation anywhere though so he said he'd do his best to work something out.

These are the lyrics that Tanielle gave us (fortunately we only had to sing what's in italics but by the time we performed I was able to sing all the words, anyway):

Hei Janaa…………….
e….e…e…e…e……..
Rato….o me doda

Hai jala tun mile la mile
Jala tun e jala tun mile la mile
Jala tun

Lame puteh-puteh si bungong purute
Mapule mapupule lume gate kayomata

Jala tun mile la mile
Jala tun e jala tun mile la mile
Jala tun

la eutse laeut ngo hate
Lan pede nyobaru mampupule lume gate
kayomata

Jala tun mile la mile
Jala tun e jala tun mile la mile
Jala tun

Kutiding Lahandingheum
Kutiding Lahandingheum
Lahembot botlatiding
Lahembot botlatiding

Lameu tajakublang
lameu tajakublang
apadi tajako padi
lapadi tajako padi

hai teu ngohromahre
hai teu ngohromahre
La ruso di roti ruso
la ruso di roti ruso
Aleha

Tiding lahandingheum
Tiding lahandingheum
Lahembot botlatiding
Lahembot botlatiding

Dengan bismillah pujoka Tuhan
Penghulu alam rassul anbiya
Dengan shalawat akan junjungan
Penghulu alam rasul anbiya
Aleaha

Tiding lahandingheum
Tiding lahandingheum
Lahembot botlatiding
Lahembot botlatiding

Hai laeutsa
hai la la ombakme
Alun kapaidi etro e mabura
Bura hai bacute

Salah bu kan sa lahmu
Salahku lapon awaidi
Gata e perahu

Rayap bungkao sabang kapatah
Tiang tamengku ala e cut ade
Nasob de ulen saya manyeumba
Leukang ulenke
Gata e laeutsa

hai la la ombakme
Alun kapaidi etro e mabura
Bura hai bacute

Salah bu kan sa lahmu
Salahku lapon awaidi
Gata e perahu

Rayap bungkao sabang kapatah
Tiang tamengku ala e cut ade
Nasob de ulen saya manyeumba
Leukang ulenke
Gata e laeutsa

hai la la ombakme
Alun kapaidi etro e mabura
Bura hai bacute

Salah bu kan sa lahmu
Salahku lapon awaidi
Gata e perahu

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